Now we know we may get push-back from the macaroni and cheese lovers of the world, but we think SOUP is the best comfort food on the planet. Every culture has their own varieties and favorites, so we are taking a culinary cruise around the world to give you some ideas for these cooler autumn evenings. Here are a few of the best fall soup recipes.
Butternut Squash Soup
Yes, you can show your prowess with your kitchen knives and wrestle the skin off butternut squashes, but these days, it’s far easier to pick up butternut squash already peeled and diced from the store. Now there’s a time saver! Like pumpkin and sweet potatoes, butternut squash packs a nutritious punch, and it’s a perfect autumn soup option. Salad, crusty bread, warm soup. Yeah baby!
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grab a baking sheet and put a layer of aluminum foil on it, and spray with cooking spray. Pour out a couple of bags of butternut squash (about 3 pounds), and a diced onion, and a chopped red bell pepper. Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the veggies. Sprinkle salt & pepper, and toss to combine. Bake for about half an hour, or until the squash gets tender. You’ll want to stir it once during cooking time. When that’s ready, heat a stock pot with a little bit of olive oil and add your squash mixture to it, along with a teaspoon of dried thyme. Let that get happy for a couple of minutes, then pour in 3 cups of chicken stock. (Cook’s note: homemade stock is by far the best, but store-bought will work as well.) Use an immersion blender to bring the soup to a smooth consistency. Let it simmer for 10 minutes and you’re ready to roll! Chives, a dollop of sour cream or crumbled bacon bits work great as toppings.
Easy Homemade Chicken, Rice and Quinoa Soup
Remember how I said homemade chicken stock is the bomb? I meant it. When you get a rotisserie chicken and debone it, save the skin and bones and add water to a stock pot and throw in a quartered onion, some carrots and celery (don’t have to be diced, just pitch them in) and some fresh or dried thyme, a couple of bay leaves and a little salt & pepper. Let the stock simmer for an hour or two, then strain it. You’ll usually have 3 quarters of stock at the end, and it is liquid gold.
Okay, onto the recipe. A great shortcut is taking rotisserie chicken from the store and shredding the meat with your fingers. Set aside. Melt a little butter and a little olive oil in a stock pot and saute a diced onion, 3 stalks of diced celery and 2 big carrots, also diced. When the onion is getting translucent, add some dried thyme and a little bit of curry. Know it sounds weird, but it works. Add a little salt and pepper. Once the herbs have ‘bloomed,’ which is a fancy way of saying you can smell them now, add the (hopefully homemade) chicken stock: about 2 quarts. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let ‘er go for ten minutes or so. Soup-making is not an exact science. Now you need some creaminess, and you can do it the easy way by adding a can of cream of chicken (or mushroom, or celery) soup, or some heavy cream or milk. Continue to simmer and add the shredded chicken. Another shortcut is to get the packages of rice and quinoa that you can find everywhere these days; the kind where you typically throw it in the microwave for 90 seconds. Don’t microwave it; instead just add it along with the chicken and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Done. Awesome. People will brag about your soup. Promise.
Southwest Spicy Chili
There are thousands of chili recipes out there, and everyone thinks their chili is the best. So do I. In fact, it’s won a chili cookoff or two, but it’s not brag; just fact! Some people never use beans; others only use shredded beef rather than ground. All personal preference. I think a key is to not be afraid of the spice rack. Too many recipes don’t use enough chili powder and cumin and the chili ends up bland. Bland and chili should never be in the same sentence.
Start with browning a pound of ground beef with a little bit of olive oil. When it is almost completely brown, move it off to the side of the pan and saute a medium onion, ½ green bell pepper, ½ red bell pepper, 1 poblano pepper, all diced. Now add the good stuff: lots of chili powder and cumin. It is to taste, of course. I generally use ¼ C chili powder and almost as much cumin. Then add in cayenne pepper to taste, along with a little salt and pepper. Add a can of diced tomatoes, a can of Rotel tomatoes, a can of pinto beans, a few dashes of worcestershire sauce to up the beefy flavor, and some Spicy V-8 juice. Let it simmer on low for at least an hour, checking and stirring now and then. Serve with sides of shredded Cheddar cheese, diced red onion, tortilla chips, or diced jalapenos. Even better after a day or two in the fridge and reheated.
Mulligatawny is an awesome Indian soup and the name means ‘pepper soup,’ although it is a warmly spiced soup but not fire-hot at all.
In a medium-sized pot bring 2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock to a boil. Add 1 cup of lentils and let them simmer for about 45 minutes. While that’s simmering, grab a soup pot and heat some olive oil over medium heat and saute a diced onion until translucent, then add a couple of diced celery stalks, 2 medium sliced carrots and a diced Granny Smith apple, unpeeled. Now it’s spice time: 1 tablespoon mustard seeds, 1 tablespoon curry powder, 2 teaspoons each of cumin, turmeric, coriander and ginger. Sprinkle in some cayenne pepper just because: about ½ teaspoon. When the spices have settled into the saute mixture (just a minute or two) add a couple of tablespoons of flour to thicken it up. Stir everything together and make sure the heat is on low so the flour doesn’t burn. Now add the lentil mixture to the soup pot and let is simmer away. If you want to go vegetarian, that’s it. If not, shred some rotisserie chicken and add it to the pot and let it simmer for an hour. Serve it hot, over some jasmine or brown rice.